Friday, February 29, 2008

The Salt Lake Tribune Comes Out Swinging

Senators Valentine and Buttars take some severe editorial heat
Added bonus: "Good stuff" from the Utah blogosphere

We'd like to put the spotlight on this scathing editorial in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, on the subject of ethics in the state legislature. Here are the blistering opening 'graphs:

If anyone in Utah still believes that there's nothing rotten in the state of Utah's legislative branch, then they haven't been paying attention for a long, long time. Perhaps they'd rather hold to the belief that their lawmakers are as ethical and honorable as they keep claiming they are.
Well, many of them aren't, folks, and we take no pleasure in saying so.
But the stench of corruption around the Capitol from all the self-dealing, bullying, power-grabbing, hate-mongering, lavish lobbying and slavish payback, is strong enough to make the eyes smart and the nostrils burn.
Strong words, we grant you. But after it was revealed that Senate President John Valentine had ignored a gross ethical breach by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, until, many months later, it was reported in this newspaper, we believe we're in no danger of overstating the ethical vacuum and sense of entitlement that pervade Capitol Hill today.
Yes, once again the bumbling Senator Chris Buttars is at the center of the controversy du-jour. State Senate President John Valentine's in the thick of it too. Read the full editorial here.

Senator Valentine can't imagine what the problem is. All Buttars did, after all, was send a threatening letter to a sitting Utah District Court Judge who'd ruled unfavorably against one of Buttars' cronies... on official Utah Legislature stationary... while serving as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee... you know, the committee which screens judges who are appointed to the Utah bench. This was no big deal to Valentine of course, who takes the remarkable position (with a completely straight face) that Buttars can shield his egregious misconduct behind the protections of the First Amendment. Hoo-boy.

And for some background on Senator Buttars' most recently-exposed political blunder, which the ethics-challenged Senate President John Valentine reportedly kept buried for at least two months, check out this short article collection from the The Third Avenue, where you'll find some exceptional analysis and commentary on the subject.

So how about it gentle readers? Anyone want to comment on ethics in the State Legislature (if any,) this bright Weber County Friday morning?

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Update 2/29/08 3:35 MT: Another good update from The Third Avenue. The young Utah lawyer who runs this blog is very politically astute, we think. And he's definitely on a roll, in re this story.

Farm Aid... Local Style

An opportunity to lend a helping hand to the hardest working family in Ogden Valley

We'll start off our discussion this morning by directing our readers' attention to a charitable drive being conducted, in part, by our friends at Ogden Vally Forum, for the benefit of one Ogden Valley farmer who has been particularly hard hit by this winter's record snowfall. Here's the gist:

Tracy Woolsey grew up on a farm in Morgan County. He married Casa Lewis from Liberty and they chose to raise their family in Huntsville. Tracy decided to give his kids the same farm life he grew up with, and while the path has not been easy, it has been fulfilling, as he farms hundreds of acres in the Huntsville area. He has a genuine love for the land and has imparted that love onto his kids who tirelessly work by his side. The Woolsey’s may well be the .

The Woolsey’s suffered a devastating loss recently as a result of near record snowfall this year. Their farm equipment has been stored in one of the Monastery’s out buildings, and the building collapsed under the snow load, causing substantial damage to the Woolsey’s equipment. To add insult to injury, much of the equipment was self insured, i.e., uninsured.

In true Valley spirit and in conjunction with the Ogden Valley Forum and Ogden Valley News, we are urging everyone to dig deep and offer anything you can to help the Woolsey’s rebuild, repair and replace. Tracy, the tough and stoic farmer, is full of pride and would rather handle the issue silently and solely, but we cannot sit back and watch our neighbor suffer alone.
If any of our always generous readers are inclined to share the bounty, and would like to help out with a financial donation, you can find more information here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bad News; Good News

Since we're not what you'd call "political pollyannas," we'll deliver the bad news first

Bad news in Emerald City this morning, at least for those two guys who'd planned to videotape Bobby Geiger's lawn sign vandalism trial and put it up on YouTube. Ace Criminal Defense Attorney Bernard Allen (Boss Godfrey's uncle-in-law) apparently worked out a plea deal at the last minute, and plead his client Little Bobbie Geiger to a criminal infraction. The court trial has now been called off, and removed from the South Ogden Justice Court docket; so there will therefore be no YouTube video memorializing this now-aborted event. Ace Crime Reporter Schwbke provides the essential facts:
The prosecutor dismissed a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge and reduced a criminal mischief charge against Geiger to an infraction resulting in the $50 fine.
Yes, gentle readers, that's it. Those are the essential facts. The rest of this morning's story (600+ words) is Schwebke fluff and spin -- something of a "man bites dog" story angle, we suppose.

For those readers who'd like to read a masterpiece of denial, victim blaming and outright lying about the operative facts, read Scott Schwebke's truly odd write-up. Ace reporter Schwebke has definitely outdone himself this morning, with classic Godfreyite spin.

As we said, there's also some good news to report. If any gentle reader ever finds the need to hire criminal defense counsel, call Bernie Allen first. Not only does he work for free, he'll pay half the fine if you're convicted, and get the prosecuting attorney to chip in the other half to boot. That, folks is what we call great client-friendly lawyering!

Although the court went light on the sentencing, it's interesting that Geiger didn't get the outright dismissal for which he'd apparently been holding out. Despite all the spin, what's important is that Geiger has "copped a plea," and has now suffered a criminal conviction for at least one of his acts of lawn sign vandalism. We suppose, of course, that this will elevate his status among the Godfreyite lemmings: Little Bobby has now taken a small-caliber bullet for The Boss.

Whether Bobby will learn anything from this is anybody's guess. From the sound of it though, he obviously has no remorse. And while he didn't get clipped in the pocketbook (like all good Godfreyites, Geiger constantly relies upon the kindness of strangers), we'd imagine the anxiety of awaiting final disposition of this matter probably represents a penalty of some indirect sort.

The lawn sign wars last act of the ongoing Boss Godfrey melodrama thusly draws its final curtain.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Step Closer to One-world Government?

Another Glenn Donnelson Bill Goes Down in Flames

Fascinating news item in the Standard-Examiner today. One of our irate readers sent us this article from today's Std-Ex: "Utah won’t rebuff federal ID act". It seems that another of House Rep. Glenn Donnelson's (R-North Ogden) bills has once again gone down in flames... once again in a sitting house committee, which is the house leadership's "killing floor" for any leadership-unapproved legislation. That's how business is done in the neoCON controlled Utah legislature.

Here's the rundown:

SALT LAKE CITY — The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to reject a bill that would have removed Utah from the federal Real Identity Act. The vote was 31-41 against HB 241, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden. Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. It requires states to adopt a standardized driver license to help ensure proper identification and would enter information from applications into a federal data bank. Last year the House approved a resolution asking Congress to repeal the act. “This year I just want to take it a step further,” Donnelson said. The Real ID Act required states to adopt the standards no later than this year, but that deadline has since been extended to 2010.

Residents of states that do not comply with the requirement will not be able to use driver’s licenses for identification at such places as airport and federal buildings.

“Federal government is not mandating this, but if we don’t do this, your driver’s license won’t be accepted where federal ID is required,” said Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara.

Clark said states will be required to do extensive background checks on residents who apply and it is anticipated the cost to states will run between $11 billion and $20 billion. Congress did not appropriate any funds to reimburse states for those costs.

“I would really like to poke Congress in the eye and pass this bill, but I think we would poke ourselves in the eye even further,” Clark said.

Donnelson said the Real ID Act takes away state’s rights, which is against the Fourth Amendment. There are 18 other states that passed similar legislation.

We hate to seem paranoid, but it appears to us that we've already given up most of our civil rights already, what with Blessed George Bush's Patriot Act, so we're now wondering why we now need a Federal ID Card, which will be a substitute for our state drivers' licence.

Being the curious type we googled "Real ID" and came up with this:

FAQ on REAL ID Act .

Having read that, we remembered a short video one of our gentle readers sent us a short while ago ago: NORTH AMERICAN UNION & VCHIP TRUTH . (Nine minute YouTube video)

So what do our ever-intelligent readers think about this? Shall we finally don our tin hats, or shall we merely chill, and calmly think about our government's most recent incremental encroachments upon our privacy and civil rights, at least semi-seriously? How many readers would like their commercial dealings recorded on one single government database every time their ID card is "swiped" at the local convenience store? How many readers are good with the concept of "Big Government" tracking their every move, and possibly selling their gathered data commercially? How would you feel about having a "chip" implanted in your head? Did Glenn Donnelson finally get one defeated bill right? Is a government surveillance world really the kind of world we want to live in? Should U.S. citizens submit to carrying a national ID card, as in Hitler's Germany? Are we finding ourselves amiably, contentedly and inexorably sliding down the slippery slope toward the tyranny of Huxley's Brave New World?

A pox on Rep. David Clark (R-Santa Clara) who was the deciding vote to kill Donnelsons' bill in committee, because resistance to this overbearing federal mandate would inconvenience a few people in the short run.

Consider this a heads-up to local political wonks, for those who didn't already know that Glenn Donnelson is a real civil libertarian. (Note the lower-case "l").


Powder Mountain Update: Time for the Lumpencitizens to Get Even More Involved

A Standard-Examiner writeup and some legislative contact information

This morning's Standard-Examiner reports on yesterday's House Political Subdivisions Committee hearing, in which House Legislative District 8 Representative Gage Froerer maneuvered to move SB-25, in an amended form containing a retroactivity provision, toward a full debate on the House floor.

In her opening paragraphs, Std-Ex reporter Loretta Park compares the two bills which are now headed for deliberations in the House of Representatives: the newly-amended SB-25 (which contains a retroactivity provision), and HB-164 (which does not.) The bills are near-identical, Ms. Parks reports, except for the provision inserted in the former bill by Rep. Froerer's amendment, which would push the effective date of that bill back to January 1, 2008.

We put up an audio link yesterday, by the way, for those readers who might be interested in hearing yesterday's committee deliberations.

For those who would instead prefer to read a short written digest of yesterday's committee meeting discussions, Ms. Parks provides a good one this morning in her closing paragraphs:

"...Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville made an amendment, which he called 'The Powder Mountain amendment.' It pushes the effective date to Jan. 1, 2008.
The amendment was approved unanimously, which surprised the committee chairman, Rep. Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan.
'I suspect this will be a split vote,' Hunsaker said and asked for vocal roll call vote.
'That was no split vote,' said Doris Donat, the committee’s secretary.
But Stowell doubts the House will approve his bill with the amendment.
'I know some of the leadership people are against it,' Stowell said. 'It is a legal law we passed last year.'
Stowell said he is also concerned there will be lawsuits.
'I have a lot of empathy for the people who lost their voting rights,' Stowell said. 'I don’t know if you want to send this to court and also not get this bill out of the House.'
Froerer said at least the amendment will start a discussion with the representatives before the bill hits the House floor.
Also no matter what happens, Froerer expects lawsuits to hit the courts.
'They will either be from the developers or a class-action suit from those who lost their voting rights,' Froerer said.'"

What's obvious from the above text is that there are still a few legislators (like Senator Stowell) who are dragging their feet, and playing lapdog to a handful of highly-conflicted "leadership people," whose primary allegiance seems to be toward the real estate development industry whom they represent in private life, rather than to the citizens of Utah, some of whose fundamental God-given rights to participate in self-government would be callously stripped away in the absence of a bill containing firm retroactivity provisions.

We're also pleased that the entire committee remained un-cowed by the "lawsuit bogeyman;" and we compliment Representative Froerer for doing his own research on the underlying legal issues. As Rep. Froerer commented, there will be litigation "no matter what happens," and we agree with that. If the State of Utah is destined to become mired in a lawsuit however, it's much better that we stand in defense of the fundamental right of citizens to self-govern, and that we occupy the moral high ground, we think.

We'll note in passing that during the many decades we've been actively playing the game of politics, we've never been more proud of any elected officials than we are of Rep. Gage Froerer, and the entire House Political Subdivisions Committee, which is composed of Republicans and Democrats alike. If you take the time to listen to the recording of the committee meeting provided in the link above, we believe you'll detect a sense of exuberance in those committee members, at having "done what's right." "Choosing the right" is always the most satisfying course of action,we believe.

Hopefully the members of the State House of Representatives will see it the same way, pass both bills, and drop the predicament back into the State Senate's lap, where Senator John Valentine, President of the Senate, who has publicly vowed to kill a bill containing retroactivity provisions, will have the opportunity to check his own "moral compass."

And for those readers who would like to become more involved in the process, as the two bills move forward for discussion in the House, we provide a link to the House membership roster, which contains handy contact information, including email links. If all goes well, the full body of the House of Representatives will be the next stop for these two bills; and we know how much our House Reps love hearing from their constituents. Remember, Viktor... it's SB-25 which contains Rep. Froerer's retroactivity amendment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: House Comittee Passes SB-25 Out of Committee Unanimously with Retroactive Provisions

Rep. Froerer successfully moves to amend SB-25, taking on the mantle of Man of the People of Leg. District 8

Senate bill 25, a remedial bill intended to cure the defects of the hopelessly flawed HB-466 (of the 2007 legislative session,) which had been stuck in the House Political Subdivisions Committee since late last week, was approved by the committee this afternoon upon the motion to amend of House Legislative District 8 Gage Froerer, sending the amended SB-25 on to the House floor with a retroactivity provision, just as many of us had hoped.

We link here the audio recording of this afternoon's committee hearing, in which Rep. Froerer eloquently argued the legal and equitable points, resulting in a unanimous favorable committee vote:

2/26/08 House Political Subdivisions Committee audio.

Discussion of SB-25 begins at approximately 36:10. Rep. Froerer's motion and argument can be found at approximately 43:43, et seq..

We offer our profound congratulations and thanks to Rep. Froerer for sticking to his guns, disregarding the instructions of certain elements in House leadership to bury this bill, lobbying his fellow committee members to pass this bill unanimously with the proper retroactivity provisions, and to send it to the House floor for debate. Thanks also to all the other committee members, who voted to do what was right.

High fives will be going up all over Ogden Valley, as the staunch lumpencitizens hear about this. Representative Gage Froerer: House Legislative District 8 Man of the People!

Comments, anyone?

Boss Godfrey Visits With the ACLU

Ogden City mayor is shocked by the civil rights watchdog's "hard questions"

By Monotreme

I was amused by the story in today's Standard-Examiner, "Mayor denies electioneering as ACLU investigates 2007 vote".

"I thought they were going to explain to me how wonderful I am," says the Mayor (I am paraphrasing only slightly).

"Instead, they asked me a lot of hard questions."

Of course, he's never received any formal complaints. What, exactly, did he think that having the ACLU investigate electioneering charges was? Some sort of friendly gesture? I'd say that hiring attorneys is pretty "formal" in my book.

Powder Mountain Update: The Standard-Examiner's Charlie Trentelman Chimes In

The Standard-Examiner's top columnist examines the Joseph Stalin “my way or the gulag” model
Added Bonus: a new Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Charles Trentelman has a strong op-ed piece in this morning's Wasatch Rambler column, in which he chimes in on the Powder Mountain town incorporation brouhaha. To kick off discussion on this topic again this morning, we incorporate Charlie's opening paragraphs:
I would love to ask the people who own Powder Mountain ski resort where they learned how government operates. Russia? Cuba? North Korea?

It sure wasn’t America.

As readers of this paper know, the owners of Powder Mountain ski resort want to expand their kingdom. They envision hundreds of housing units, larger ski runs, new roads, condos, stores and thousands of visitors a day.

The good people of Ogden Valley, concerned fulfillment of those plans would drop a road-clogging and quickie-mart building bomb on the area’s rural beauty, took the idea under study. Laboring under the impression that, in America, the people have a voice in how their community is built, they wrote up a list of planning goals for the Powder Mountain folks to follow. Their idea was, “You want to be a good neighbor, do this.” The response of the Powder Mountain folks was, “The heck with you.” Leaning on an idiotic law passed by the Legislature last year, the resort owners decided to form their own city. They would appoint their own mayor and council. They would levy their own taxes.

If the people of Ogden Valley, and especially Eden, parts of which were included just to make the population numbers fit, didn’t like it, then tough noogies.

The people don’t like it. Who would?
Read Charlie's full column here, and then come back and comment if you believe there's anything Charlie left out.

Update 2/26/08 8:45 a.m. MT: Thanks to a tip from sharp-eyed and alert reader Ray, we direct our readers to this morning's Salt Lake Tribune editorial, which calls for the outright repeal of HB-466. It also provides some historical background on the manner in which the legislature has ignored the ill effects of this legislation, as problems have continued to fester in Weber County and elsewhere in Utah. Read and participate in the comments section below the editorial, where some good comments are already queuing up. Today's SLTrib article presents the ideal opportunity, we think, to educate Salt Lake Valley and other Utah citizens within the SLTrib's broad readership, about the magnitude of the problems, actual and potential, arising from this ill-conceived legislation.

More on the Showdown in House District 9

Questions on the issues of dual representation and convention rules

The Standard-Examiner picks up on the local story this morning which we first revealed on Saturday: Emerald City councilman Jesse Garcia is indeed challenging Rep. Neil Hansen for his House Legislative 9 seat at the Weber County Democratic party nominating convention, for a possible spot on the ballot in the June 24 primary election.

This morning's story adds another wrinkle to this 2008 election story which has become quite familiar in the politics of Emerald city. As Scott Schwebke reports, "Garcia also said he would consider finishing out his council term that expires in 2010 while serving simultaneously in the Legislature, if elected."

The issue of dual representation first raised its head as a local issue two years ago, during Senator Jon Greiner's 2006 Senate campaign, when some citizens complained that Greiner could not, or should not, simultaneously serve as District 19 State Senator and Ogden City Chief of Police. Yet Greiner is now within weeks of completing his second legislative session, with nary a complaint, at least none that's risen to the surface of public perception.

Similarly, Neil Hansen was criticised during his 2007 Ogden City municipal election campaign, when he refused to rule out serving a dual mayor/house representative role, in the event he were to be elected Mayor of Ogden.

So what about it, gentle readers? Let us know what you think. Would it be for any reason improper for Councilman Garcia to occupy the dual role of Ogden City Councilman/ Legislative District 9 Representative, in the event he were to prevail in November's election?

And we have a sidebar question for any readers familiar with Weber County Democratic Party convention rules. Can anyone explain to us under what circumstances both Hansen and Garcia could emerge from convention and face each other in a June primary? And under what circumstances would only one of them surivive convention to become the sole WCDP candidate in November?

Inquiring minds need to know.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: The Aggrieved Citizens Form a Government in Exile

Added bonus: A live audio feed from this morning's House Political Subdivisions Committee hearing

The Standard-Examiner reports that the soon-to-be citizens of Weber County's newest town (affectionately dubbed "Powderville") have already gotten together to choose their own elected town officials. More from this morning's Marshall Thompson story:

EDEN — As the Powder Mountain developers’ petition to form a chunk of the Ogden Valley into a town moves forward, future residents are taking matters into their own hands.

A group of 40 voting-age residents met Friday to elect their own ad hoc council. Darla Van Zeben, Deja Mitchell, Jim Halay, Ryan Bushell, Layne Sheridan and Norman Belnap are the six people who will unofficially represent “Powderville,” which is a nickname for the residential neighborhoods that were drawn into Powder Mountain Town without a vote.

“We agreed to work together on tactics and plans and report back to our residents,” Halay said. “We elected a group to speak for us.”
In essence, these fine folks of Ogden Valley have formed their own duly-elected "government in exile," so to speak, in conformity with the best traditions of American grass-roots democracy.

What we can distill from this morning's story seems to be that this latest citizen action carefully adheres to these citizens' earlier disclosed battle plan, with an object of forcing (or shaming) the Powder Mountain developer to refrain from the appointment of town officials as authorized under provisions of HB-466, but rather to voluntarily permit the selection of Powderville's new Mayor and Council by public vote.

Once again we'll express our great admiration for the determination and resourcefulness of the folks in Ogden Valley, as they march forward proactively to take and occupy the moral highground.

Update 2/25/08 1:44 p.m. MT: As promised yesterday, we earlier put up a live audio link for this morning's House Political Subdivisions Committee hearing. Unfortunately, the committee adjourned about halfway through today's agenda, because committee members were required to get back to the floor by 9:30 a.m. for floor debates. So we have now removed the link. We just spoke a moment ago with Rep. Froerer however, who advises that the bill will be back on tomorrow's committee agenda, and that he's working hard with committee members to see that an HB-466 curative bill, containing retroactive provisions, is ultimately sent out to the House floor for debate.

And to reiterate, although the probability of the the legislature's enactment of a bill containing a retroactivity provision is low, we haven't yet reached the point where such a possibility can be entirely ruled out.

ACLU Continues 2007 Election Probe

Boss Godfrey meets today with ACLU lawyers to answer a few questions

The Standard-Examiner reports this morning that Boss Godfrey will be meeting today with lawyers from the ACLU, in connection with their probe of alleged 2007 Emerald City municipal election irregularities. From this morning's Ace Reporter Schwebke story:

OGDEN — Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union plan to meet with Mayor Matthew Godfrey today as part of their investigation into complaints about the city’s Nov. 6 mayoral election.

Marina Lowe, staff attorney for the ACLU of Utah, based in Salt Lake City, declined to disclose what will be discussed with Godfrey.

However, she said, the meeting is necessary before the organization can finalize a report detailing its findings regarding voter complaints about the election.

The ACLU launched its investigation after receiving at least 20 complaints of inappropriate use of voter challenges, denial of provisional ballots, intimidation of voters and electioneering at polling places.

Godfrey said he doesn’t know what the ACLU intends to ask him, but believes the meeting will center on how the election was handled by Weber County officials.

The mayor said he hasn’t received formal complaints from anyone about electioneering conducted on his behalf at polling places.

I never heard anything about any problem,” he said. [Emphasis added]
Translation: "I've never been sued or indicted."


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: Powderville Ain't a Reality Yet

New maneuverings in committee to add a retroactivity provision to SB-25

Ogden Valley Forum again has the latest news on the action in the House Political Subdivisions Committee, where the two HB-466 remedial bills remain pending. According to Representative Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville), there remains some hope that at least one of these bills will be sent to the house floor with a retroactivity provision. As OVF reports, Rep. Froerer intends to make a motion in committee himself, to so amend SB-25. From yesterday's OVC article:
The latest information from Gage Froerer on SB25 and SB53. SB 25 will be pushed out of committee Monday. Gage will be running an amendment to make the effective date Jan. 1, 2008. Gage feels we have a 50/50 chance of passing the bill with his amendment in committee and even less on the floor, but he wants to send a message to the courts in case it goes that far. [...]

The Attorney General’s office does not review bills prior to enactment. That job falls on the Attorney’s in legislative research who have found it to be constitutional but have said there is case law on both sides of this debate and they feel it could be overturned with a lawsuit.

Gage wants everyone to know he is not backing down on this issue on the basis of the retro. He firmly believes that we need a replacement to HB466 first and foremost, then we can deal with Powder Mountain.
If SB-25 is successfully amended in committee, it seems to us, (in a best case scenario) that the House of Representatives could conceivably be presented with two alternatives when it comes time for floor debate -- SB-25 (with a retroactivity provision) AND HB-164 (without a retroactivity provision) -- sort of a legislator's choice between door number 1 and door number 2. And these alternatives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it seems to us. Conceivably, both bills could be passed in the House and sent on to the Senate.

We'll again post a link to the committee audio on Monday morning, for the benefit of those readers interested in listening in.

We'll also note in passing that we find it odd that the State Attorney General seems to have taken the position all along that he doesn't have the resources or political will to defend in court any lawsuits which might arise as a result of the legislature's curing of the defects in the oafishly flawed HB-466. Instead, he would prefer that the very citizens who would be adversely affected by this defective law, which one house member has labeled "a major screw up," would bear the costs of pursuing their own litigation -- financed from their own pockets instead.

Sad times in Utah government these days. Here's hoping the voters will do a better job in November than in the past election.

And a Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to Rep. Gage Froerer for standing up for his Legislative District 8 constituents in the face of opposition by certain elements of GOP legislative leadership... and the greed-head developers who whisper in their ears. If all goes well, we'll perhaps have to eat our earlier harsh words.

A Retort From the Weber County Democratic Party

Is the Weber County Democratic Party showing signs of life?

Over the course of the past six weeks we've followed, with growing amusement, the series of highly politically-partisan Brad Dee guest commentaries appearing in the Sunday edition of the Standard-Examiner. Brad Dee is of course state representative Brad Dee, assistant majority whip of the Utah House of Representatives. These articles, written by an obvious Weber County up-and-comer in GOP legislative leadership, have represented quite a propaganda coup for the Weber County Republican Party; and we'd wondered, frankly, how long the Std-Ex editors and local Democrats would let the dominant party in Weber County politics get away with all the one-sided free column space.

Last Sunday, Rep. Dee contributed this guest commentary, praising the teamwork of the Weber County legislative delegation, and reeling off a few examples of legislative teamwork, but neglecting to mention either of its two Democratic Party members.

And while it's also true that several GOP team members were also left out of Rep. Dee's article, Weber County Democratic Party Chair LaFray Kelley has nevertheless taken umbrage at these perceived omissions, and has now contributed her own responsive guest commentary to this morning's Std-Ex editorial page, from which we incorporate Ms. Kelly's opening paragraph:
Brad Dee’s Feb. 17 installment of his legislative report removed any doubt about what this series really is: free political advertising for the Republican Party. His column on “teamwork” praising the work of “our Weber County legislative team” comes across as a little self-serving when you realize he blatantly left out the names of the two Democratic members of that team: Neal Hansen and LaWanna Shurtliff.
Ms. Kelley then takes advantage of a little more free column space, goes on to highlight the accomplishments of these two legislators, and then caroms off into a discussion of other more general political issues, and a call for "balance." All in all it's an interesting read; and you can find the full article here.

We love a good political scrap, and it appears the 2008 Weber County election front burner is heating up.

And what say our gentle readers about all this? Is it just your blogmaster, or are there others among us who perceive signs of life from the formerly moribund Weber County Democratic Party?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

House Legislative District 9 Showdown

A short excerpt from a conversation had by your blogmeister, while prowling downtown Ogden

We heard some interesting news this afternoon while prowling Ogden's downtown. As your blogmeister entered one downtown building, Ogden city councilman (and former council chair) Jesse Garcia was coming out the door, wearing a big wide grin.

"'Sup, Jesse?" we asked, in classic downtown dialect.

"Oh, I'm just coming out of a Democratic meeting. I'm running for legislative district 9" (Neil Hansen's seat.)

Startled, we replied, "Isn't Hansen running again?"

"Yes he is," replied Garcia, broadening the grin.

We then exchanged pleasantries, and went our separate ways, both of us agreeing that it "Sounds like an interesting race." But since our chance meeting, we've been thinking about this.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Neil Hansen a five-term elected state house representative, one of only two elected Democratic officials in all of Weber County? And Councilman Garcia has decided to try to knock him off at the April Democratic County Convention? We wonder what's up with that? It seems to us that Hansen has been one of the few Democrats who's found the formula for political success in our overwhelmingly GOP-oriented county; and we're scratching our heads wondering whether this is really a good idea, from the Democratic Party perspective. Wouldn't it make more sense for Democratic Party members like Garcia to rally behind a proven winner, and to avoid any hard feelings that might result from a contested nominating convention floor fight? This is something your blogmeister is having a hard time processing within his war-horse paleo-GOP noggin, we admit. And please pardon us if we seem naive. We've only been actively involved in grass-roots local politics for forty years.

Perhaps one of our "yellow dog" Demo readers could help us out with this. To us, this makes no sense.

And don't forget... you read it here first.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: Kristen Moulton is Assigned to the Powderville Disenfrangisement Story

Better late than never, we hope

We're quite delighted that the Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton has finally stepped up within the last few days, to report on the Powderville Town Incorporation land-grab. She's an outstanding Utah reporter, and hopefully, her intelligent reporting doesn't come too late. The people of Utah need to be informed about our Utah corporo-fascist problem. If anyone can do that, it's Ms. Moulton.

From today's article Kristen reports about the effects of Tuesday's House Committee hearing, during which Committee Vice Chair Gage Froerer (who chaired the meeting) essentially told a pack of citizens from Ogden Valley: "just shut up."

We incorporate here the key paragraphs from Kristen's article:
A House committee Thursday endorsed a makeover of the law that guides town incorporations.
But lawmakers turned a deaf ear to Ogden Valley residents who want the new law to block Powder Mountain's incorporation.
The bill, HB164, proposed by Rep. Melvin Brown, R-Coalville, would replace HB466, passed with little discussion at the end of the 2007 legislation, a measure one representative - Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden - acknowledged Thursday was a "major screw-up."
Please listen to the recorded hearing transcript now, gentle readers. If you take the time to hear it, you'll find that this House Committee didn't even address the "disenfrangisement issue." Perhaps Rep. Froerer didn't realize that the lumpencitizens would be listening in when he treated them so rudely. These people on the committee listened quitely while the Ogden Valley citizen-activists, who'd gotten up early in the morning and travelled to the capitol to address what they assumed to be an open-minded standing committee, (and who would hear and consider their concerns) -- got shut down by "Acting Chair " Gage Froerer -- who awarded their citizen activism, by limiting the last two of them to "one minute."

If you have an ounce of political passion, gentle readers, listen to the audio transcript here.

After that, you can become "ticked off," along with your blogmaster.

Economic News That's Truly Sweet

Economics lessons to be learned by hangin' out with grownups

Great economic news for Emerald City in this morning's Standard-Examiner, with this morning's announcement of a new addition the our city's business community. And no, it's not another ski company, with a skeleton crew of ski apparel salesmen operating from the attic of Bernard Allen's law office, or a fly-by-night airplane maker, doomed to liquidation in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. This company is solid, with 104 years' international business experience. It's even publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. We'll let the Std-Ex's Marshall Thompson give you the gist of it, with a few of today's key paragraphs:
OGDEN — The Hershey Company, which manufactures some of America’s favorite chocolate treats, accepted Utah’s economic incentive Thursday to set up a distribution center at the Business Depot Ogden.

The incentive plan, which the Governor’s Office of Economic Development approved in October, gives Hershey $2.6 million over 10 years to operate a $38 million distribution hub out of Ogden. The GOED expects the center to employ 123 workers and generate $13 million in new revenue for the state in the next 10 years.

“Our productive work force, superior location and transportation infrastructure, along with an unparalleled quality of life, will continue to keep Utah in the forefront as one of America’s best states for business,” Gov. Jon Huntsman said in a news release. “Hershey will be a great addition to the growing and vibrant Ogden community.” [...]

“They plan to break ground in early March,” said Dave Harmer, Ogden’s community and economic development director. “Their target completion date is in October or sometime in the fall.”

Harmer added that many businesses are attracted to BDO because of its easy access to an interstate highway and rail service.
Strangely... nary a word about gondolas -- oh my!

We'd like to heartily congratulate Governor Huntsman and Boss Godfrey for landing this trophy economic fish. We've looked at the charts, and won't expect to see Hershey locking out its employees and customers late some snowy Sunday night, and popping up in Bankruptcy Court on Monday morning.

We believe that it's sound companies like Hershey that we need to attract, if we seek Emerald City's true economic revival. Perhaps Boss Godfrey should think about devoting more time to doing his recruiting at big-league trade conventions, and forget the Vegas ski trade show altogether. Lord Godfrey would probably amaze himself at what he could accomplish, if he were inclined to associate with grownups.

And for those who are scratching their heads wondering how Hershey fits into Boss Godfrey's "High Adventure Recreation" theme, we'll remind you that chocolate is a product made from a vegetable, and is thus a health food product. As a matter of fact, one of Hershey's early advertising slogans capitalized on this aspect with the catchy phrase: "a palatable confection and a most nourishing food.” And no, we are not making this up.

Who knows? If Godfrey keeps this up, we may form a Boss Godfrey Fan Club. Stranger things have been known to happen.

And what say our readers about all this?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: House Committee Turns Its Back on Self-government

The "fix" is in, just as gentle reader Curmudgeon predicted -- UPDATED

Kristen Moulton's morning followup story bears the bad news for the citizens of Ogden Valley. The article is brief, so we'll incorporate it in full:
A House committee this morning endorsed a makeover of a bill that allows town incorporations, but refused requests of impassioned Ogden Valley residents to make the new law apply to Powder Mountain town.
The residents delivered petitions with nearly 520 signatures of those opposed to efforts of the new owners of Powder Mountain ski resort to incorporate as a town.
"You are putting us in a jurisdiction in which we have no vote," said Darla Longhurst-Van Zeben, who lives in the Eden area set to be part of the new town. "That is absolutely wrong."
The developers filed an incorporation petition in January and included in the boundaries some 60 homes of the Eden area, many of whom do not want to be part of the new town. To incorporate, Powder Mountain needs 100 residents, and the resort does not have that many residents.
The House Political Subdivisions Committee declined to make HB164 retroactive to Jan. 1 or otherwise amend the law so it would apply to the Powder Mountain incorporation.
Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden, acknowledged after the hearing that last year's HB466 was a "major screw-up."
The Weber County Commission could be asked to approve the petition as early Tuesday.
Barring floor amendment to add a retractivity provision when debate begins on the House floor in a few days, it appears that the soon-to-be politically disenfranchised folks in Powderville may very well start living under at least two years of corporate dictorship -- perhaps as early as next week.

We link here the roster of the House Political Subdivisions Committee members who wouldn't lift even a finger to fix the "unintended results" of last year's HB466, which one Weber County House member even admitted to have been a "major screw-up." All of these same folks will be coming around in November to ask for our readers' votes. We urge everyone to print out this list, and file it for future reference. Chalk this up as the most shameful day yet, in what's turning out to be the most shameful legislative session in recent memory.

Comments, anyone?

Update 2/21/08 8:29 p.m. MT: Whatever you do, don't miss Minor Machman's latest cranky analysis of today's committee meeting, on his own Utah Wingmen for Property Tax RE-FORUM blogsite. Let there no doubt. The citizens of Ogden Valley have "true grit," which is especially well-demonstrated by a genuine Vietnam War combat pilot American hero like MM, who's preparing to release ordnance now that he's living his life as a civilian, and to do a political bombing run on the greedhead "bad neighbors" of Powder Mountain Development, and those cowardly House Committee Members -- especially those four from Weber County -- who sat on their thumbs throughout today's committee hearing, and delivered the message to the citizens of eastern Weber County: "Screw you!"

Powder Mountain Update: Powderville Foes Head to the Capitol

Listen to the audio recording of this morning's hearing

The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton picks up on the Powder Mountain incorporation story this morning, with a short article clarifying the status of the two bills (SB25 and HB164) which appear on the House of Representatives agenda this morning. Contrary to our earlier impressions, these bills are not actually scheduled for floor debate, but rather for deliberation within the House Political Subdivisions Committee.We incorporate Ms. Moulton's opening 'graphs below:

A group of Ogden Valley residents plan to plead with lawmakers this morning to reverse a 2007 law that would allow Powder Mountain ski resort to become Powder Mountain Town.

Armed with petitions signed by 517 opponents, they'll argue that the new law should be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Though the Legislature appears ready to reverse the law that made it easy for county residents or developers to incorporate small towns - the Senate already passed its version - it has shown little stomach for kicking the effective date back to Jan. 1.
For those readers interested in listening to the testimony and deliberations of this morning's committee hearing, click here for the previously recorded audio feed. (RealPlayer format)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dump Chris Buttars Now!

Buttars rapidly becomes the most embarrassing Utah GOP poster-boy ever

Excellent editorial in today's Standard-Examiner about that GOP dominated Utah legislature's embarrassing GOP moron, Senator Chris Buttars. Why this dope remains a Utah State Senator remains a complete mystery to us. It doesn't speak well for the citizens of his Senate District, who are rapidly being perceived as a pack of rednecks; nor does it enhance the image of the Utah Republican Party either, in what may prove to be a tough election in November 2008.

Unfortunately for those of us who continue to adhere to fundamental GOP principles elsewhere in Utah (your blogmeister admits to being an unreformed paleo-conservative), Senator Buttars has now become the GOP legislative poster boy for redneck dumbasses who wear the elephant lapel pin.

We've refrained from posting anything on this story so far, mainly because it's been covered ever so thoroughly elsewhere in the Utah blogosphere. From here on out, however, with the Std-Ex's blessing, (and digging into phraseology from our Irish heritage), we consider this story to be "Katy bar the door".

We'll just say that we completely agree with the Standard-Examiner on this topic-- something that doesn't happen all that often. Buttars deserves the GOP heave-ho. This neanderthal throwback ought to be dumped promptly - with chicken feathers, tar and a rail, if necessary.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Powder Mountain Update: A Boycott; and a State Capitol "Show of Force"

Ogden Valley citizens continue to turn up the political heat

More frenzied activity over on Ogden Valley Forum this morning, with several new posts dealing with the Powder Mountain Town Incorporation Landgrab:

First, the Ogden Valley lumpencitizens are talking Powder Mountain boycott, (discount Snowbasin tickets anyone?), and a show of force tomorrow in the Utah Legislature, as the two remedial bills move onto the agenda for House of Representatives floor debate. Read all about it here.

Secondly, the OVF blogmeister also offers special thanks to those who signed the petition; and we at Weber County Forum join him in that. The petition has by now garnered over 500 signatures (518 to be exact), many from Weber County Forum readers in western Weber County and other places outside Ogden Valley. From our own viewpoint, the response of our Weber County Forum readership has been heartwarming, to say the least.

And don't miss this morning's Marshall Thompson story, reporting on the procedural "wrench" which Wolf Creek Resort has thrown into the developer's town incorporation process "gear-box." Whether this latest maneuver, which would remove about 900 acres of properties from the proposed Powderville town boundaries, will disqualify the Powders Mountain Developers' petition because of shortfalls in proportionate acreage, value or absolute population (a valid petition requires 100 residents at minimum) remains anyone's guess, but it almost certainly buys more time for the folks of Ogden Valley, as they now turn their efforts to lobbying the legislature.

We offer this morning a hearty Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to everyone who is involved so far in this grand grass-roots effort.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Adam Aircraft Throws in the Towel

Emerald City aircraft manufacturer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection

“They’re going through another round of financing, and credit markets are very tight right now. I really expect this will be a short-term negative impact, and then they’ll back and everything will go forward as planned.”
Dave Harmer - Director
Ogden City Economic Development Department

January 18, 2008
OPTIMISM, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
Ambrose Bierce
The Devil's Dictionary

Stick a fork in Adam Aircraft, gentle readers; they're done. Despite the rosy optimism expressed in our home town newspaper as recently as two days ago, we now have a report that the financially-troubled Ogden Airport airplane manufacturer has filed a bankruptcy petition, seeking liquidation under the provisions of Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
The Denver Business Journal broke the story yesterday in its online edition.
Suggested moral of the story: When it comes time for Dave Harmer (or any of Boss Godfrey's cronies) to resort to expressing irrational optimism, it's also time for the lumpencitizens to become extra nervous.
Write it down so you don't forget it, gentle readers. This is a lesson we'll no doubt need for the future, as the Godfrey administration's grand plots and schemes continue unravelling one by one.
Update 2/20/07 9:11 a.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner also provides a good writeup this morning, in which Scott Schwebke reports that Dave Harmer's mood has been downgraded from "optimistic" to "hopeful."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another Boss Godfrey Grand Scheme in Jeopardy

Your blogmeister sees more reckless public bonding in his trusty crystal ball

More startling news from this morning's Standard-Examiner: Ace Reporter Schwebke reports this morning that Boss Godfrey's ambitious Midtown Village at the Junction hotel/waterpark project stands in jeopardy. The problem? Administration contract negotiators promised the developer the moon, parking-wise, but ultimately proved unable to actually deliver the goods:
OGDEN — A $115 million hotel and indoor waterpark proposed for downtown has hit a snag because the project developer can’t lease 275 spaces in a public parking garage.
Rob Storey, director of marketing and business development for Orembased Midtown Development, said it could cost the company an additional $4 million if it has to redesign the 14-story Midtown Village at The Junction hotel and waterpark complex to accommodate additional parking.
Dave Harmer, the city’s community and economic development director, said Monday he’s unsure if the lack of parking will kill the project. [...]
Midtown officials learned Thursday from the city that 275 parking spaces in the garage at Grant Avenue and 23rd Street that serves The Junction wouldn’t be available, Storey said.
According to an e-mail from Harmer to David Smith, an Ogden resident who has raised questions about the hotel and waterpark project, the city was initially willing to lease 275 garage spaces to Midtown.
“As it turns out, we do not have 275 spaces available in the mall parking structure, and Midtown has been informed that all the required parking will need to be constructed with the project,” says the e-mail obtained by the Standard-Examiner.
“The final agreement will reflect this change.”
Perhaps the adminstration should have sent Bill Glasmann over to the existing Junction parking structure to count parking spaces -- before administration officials drew up their proposed contract, that is. Just a thought.

As today's Std-Ex story notably reports, the utter sloppiness of Godfrey administration foot-work has been once again brought to the city council's attention by the always-attentive lumpencitizens. As we've learned over time, Boss Godfrey's grand plots and schemes, which are always long on "excitement" and woefully short on "detail," must be closely watched. Thank goodness there are a few community minded lumpencitizens willing to do that.

To nobody's surprise, Midtown Development director of marketing and business development Rob Storey remains nonplussed about this latest contractual glitch, however:
“It’s just a hiccup,” Storey said, adding that Midtown is eager to resolve the parking issue so a revised development agreement can be approved by the RDA board as soon as possible.
“Things happen.”
We believe Mr. Storey knows what he's talking about. As we suspect from years of experience watching the Godfrey administration, the phrase "eager to resolve the parking issue" is most likely "code," which yields translation into common parlance as "more public bonding." With an administration that's hell-bent to add a new hotel to The Junction landscape (complete with a gondola terminal) we really can't expect a developer who's already acquiring its target property on the cheap to reach into its own pocket to come up with an extra four-million. So in a circumstance where an $18 million bonding proposal is already on the Emerald City drawing board, we'll look into our crystal ball, and go out on a limb to predict that a new bond figure will soon emerge, exceeding $22 million, (an amount by the way, which will be devoted to parking facilities alone. )

This of course will all be happening at a time when Emerald City public debt has already soared to a little under $100 million, and there's palpable evidence of a rapidly cooling Utah economy.

Having said all this, we'll express our hope that our Emerald City RDA Board will continue to be exceedingly cautious as they consider approval of this risky project. Once a revised contract is drafted, Boss Godfrey will be soon trying to shove it down their throats. All we can say is that it would be a shame for our RDA Board members to leave the Emerald City taxpayers holding the bag, in the event that this project (and/or the economy) goes further south. Due diligence would seem to be the crucial watchword. Feasibility study, anyone?

Comments are invited, as always.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: A Citizen Manifesto

"We have not yet begun to fight," warns one Ogden Valley resident

Even as Ogden Valley residents "take to the streets" this very morning in Eden to picket and march in today's "President's Day Powder Mountain Rally," we find even more evidence that a political storm of hurricane proportions is brewing in eastern Weber County.

In that connection, we refer our readers to Ogden Valley Forum's most recent posting, consisting of an open letter from Kimbal L. Wheatley, a self-declared "Citizen of Ogden Valley and the United States of America," revealing some of the tactics expected to be employed in the Powder Mountain town incorporation fight. It's a nice long rant; and some would even call it a manifesto.

While some might debate the wisdom of disclosing the citizen activist battle plan before the war has truly begun, we believe there does exist some strategic advantage for Ogden Valley citizens in laying it all out in the open at the outset, thereby 1) encouraging the further recruitment of Ogden Valley citizens who've yet remained peripheral to the anti-corporate dictatorship movement, and 2) putting the Powder Mountain Developer on notice that it has a tiger by the tail which happens to occupy the "high moral ground."

All in all, we found the letter to be a very interesting read. And we'll add that we're exceedingly proud of our Ogden Valley neighbors to the east, for bravely fighting for one of the most cherished of American traditions: the right to have a voice in their own government. It's too bad our state legislature doesn't understand the concept.

And before closing, we'll single out one pre-incorporation tactical approach (from one of the author's bullet points), which we found to be particularly intriguing:

However, there is at least one big issue left that the PERPS have to deal with to finish squeezing through the loophole. Wolf Creek Resort has filed a petition to withdraw 160 acres of their resort that the PERPS included in Powderville. If the county commissioners grant the withdrawal, the boundaries will have to be redrawn and they may not reach the 50% valuation criterion of HB466; a citizen watchdog group is monitoring the situation. Even so, we have to assume the PERPS will figure out a way to bypass more rules and Powderville will become reality.
And what about it, gentle readers? Any other tactical suggestions for our friends in Ogden Valley?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: Ogden Valley Citizens Take the Fight to the Streets

Bring along your own signs and banners to tomorrow's rally -- pitchforks and torches are optional

We didn't want to let the whole day slip by without putting the spotlight on this afternoon's Ogden Valley Forum article, briefly mentioning yesterday's protest rally, and inviting concerned northern Utahns to join in again tomorrow, for a follow-up demonstration, which will be held between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.:

Saturday's Powder Mountain Protest made it to the Top of Utah front page of the Standard this morning, and even more news coverage is scheduled for Monday's rally. Don't miss the photo's of our Powderville Heros tirelessly "working" the picket lines.

Be there or be square Monday with signs in hand to show your support for residents who are being forced into "Powderville" with no vote and no representation.
These dual rallies were of course also the subject of this morning's fact-filled and photo-laden Marshall Thompson story.

We know tomorrow will be a paid holiday for at least some of our readers, so we urge those of you who won't be stuck in the office to take the short drive up to Ogden Valley, to stand in solidarity with our neighbors in eastern Weber County, who are feverishly and valiently working at the grass-roots level, to oppose the most aggressively-overreaching corporate neighbor (today's OVF article broaches the subject of corporo-fascism) observed in any Utah neighborhood since... well... ever.

We're also informed that broadcast news camera crews may be on hand to record the event for the evening news, in addition to reporters from the various northern Utah print media.

Don't forget to don your long-johns and woolie-woolies. Remember, it gets right chilly in Eden, Utah, on clear mid-February mornings.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Balancing Luxuries Against Necessities

Plea to keep government expenditures in perspective

By Ogden Lover

OK, the Standard-Examiner reports this morning that the ice tower project just got an extension on its $200,000 RAMP tax grant because it's behind schedule.

I think we've lost perspective on this in the recent discussion. It does not matter that Mr. Lowe has an impressive list of accomplishments. While it is sad that he has MS, that is not the point either. The question is whether the ice tower will be a good thing for Ogden. Even more, will it be worth the cost to Ogden taxpayers at a time we need to use any available funding for infrastructure repairs. Residents in the northern part of town know how badly the water system needs repair, we may need to spend more on snow removal this winter and be left with damage to our roads that also need work.

The ice tower is a luxury. Infrastructure is a necessity.

Let's hear from our readers about this.

Experiencing Another "Utah Epiphany"

A short essay on political cowardice: So-called "remedial legislation" will still leave aggrieved Ogden Valley citizens politically disenfranchised

“We don’t want to deal with retrospect. There are numerous incorporations already going forward, and to roll back the clock would put us in a litigious situation.”

Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal.
February 16, 2008

“If the law supposes that, the law is a ass, a idiot.”

Mr. Bumble
Oliver Twist - Dickens

“Lawsuits are likely regardless of what happens, and the potential fallout from House Bill 466 last year needs to be stopped. Just because we opened the door and the animals got out, that doesn’t mean we can’t gather up the animals and put them back in the barn,”

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden
February 16, 2008

Hoo-boy, gentle readers. After perusing the Standard-Examiner this morning, we're having one of those startling flashes of clarity that we call a "Utah Epiphany." Here we've been naively working like madmen over the past few weeks, trying to muster support for Senator Stowell's (R-Parowan) SB-25, which we believed to be curative legislation for the evils of last year's HB-466; and now we learn -- in this morning's Jeff Demoss story -- that the current version of this bill, which passed in the senate yesterday by a 26-1 vote, is not designed to operate retroactively.

Yesiree, folks, those gutless wonders in the senate passed a remedial bill alright; but it won't do anything to help those folks in Ogden Valley who stand to live for at least two years without elected town representation -- under the dictatorship of corporate Powder Mountain developer appointees. Senator Allen Christensen made a valiant effort to add a retroactive provision to the bill, according to today's story, but his cowardly Senate colleagues apparently turned him down flat.

Our take on the solution to the current political predicament is of course very simple. It was the Utah State Legislature who caused this problem; and it's the responsibility of that same legislative body, (the entire body, including the senate,) to fix it. The solution seems fairly uncomplicated, we believe, if we can rely on the accuracy of today's story. The House of Representatives can pass one of the two other pending House bills which do contain retroactive provisions (HB-413 or HB-164,) and send one of them on to the Senate. Alternatively, the House could kick back a House-amended SB-25 (with retroactive provisions.) Whatever they do, we hope representatives like Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville) will have the courage to stick to their guns. Otherwise it will be, once again in Utah, the "little people" who are left holding the bag.

As to the threat of developer litigation, by the way, we'll offer that we are not impressed. And to our gentle readers we ask, in the event that litigation will be the inevitable result of the legislature's "doing the right thing," how, exactly will any developer prove damages? Will Utah developers with pending incorporation petitions argue that town incorporation is a vested property right? We believe it's pretty clear that town incorporation is a political "privilege," and not a "right." And even assuming that a pending incorporation petition is a vested and valuable property right entitled to protection in Utah courts, how would a court deal with the problem of the political disenfranchisement of those citizens who have been unwillingly dragged into new municipal entities at the whim of neighboring property owners, because of the unintended operation of an ill-conceived law that everyone (including legislators in the State Senate) seems to believe to have been flawed from the outset?

Senator Christensen is quite right, of course. There will be litigation regardless of the manner in which this situation shakes out in the legislature. And in the event of litigation we'll put our money on the litigants who have ALL the equities on their side, i.e., the 100 or so people of Ogden Valley, whose own property and political rights are being trampled by one greedy developer who readily admits its incorporation petition action is tactical, cynically intended to sidestep Weber County regulatory authority and "...take complete control of their own destiny". [Paragraph 4]

If there is to be litigation, bring it on. In the meantime we call on all members of the Utah legislature to check out their own moral compasses. We think it's time to "gather up the animals and put them back in the barn," as Senator Christensen suggests.

The State Senate's most recent inaction leaves your blogmeister with a profound sense of disgust this morning. It's difficult to believe that this situation is happening in America. Of course this really isn't America, good readers. It's Utah. We're again experiencing another Utah Epiphany, as we said.

And what say our WCF cyber-folke about all this?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Good Ogden Ink in Today's New York Times

More Emerald City bait to lure the well-heeled "high adventure" tourist

By Curmudgeon

Interesting article on Ogden and skiing in today's New York Times about skiing the west face of Mt. Ogden from the ridge line to Ogden city.

Here are a few of the opening graphs. It's a very long article, with a good picture included:
It was a Saturday morning, sunny and clear at 8:30. Mr. Robinson, an airline baggage handler and budding professional skier, was transferring his gear to an idling car parked next to his.“I could ski from the summit right to this street,” said Mr. Robinson, who lived five blocks away when he was in college.

The summit Mr. Robinson referred to was Mount Ogden, which, at 9,570 feet, dominates the skyline above its namesake town. In a good snow year, a massive squiggle of white known as the Banana Chute fills in on Mount Ogden’s rocky northwest face, creating a dramatic entrance to a skiable descent that is larger than any lift-accessible run in the country.

Calibrate your altimeter at the top and you can ski for four miles and nearly 5,000 vertical feet, from the thin alpine air, down through the maw of the chute, over ridges and meadows of untracked snow, then into a creek bed that funnels the backcountry line to its unlikely terminus at the residential grid of a midsize American town.

The Banana Chute experience, which can be reached by a short hike out of bounds from Snowbasin ski resort off Highway 167 east of Ogden, is not for the tame or the uninitiated. This is a locals’ adventure, where avalanche dangers are present and real. The terrain is for advanced and expert skiers only, with cliffs, trees, traverses and rock-studded slopes best led by a guide who knows the route.
Ed. note: Well let us see... in order to properly service that route for all those east coast tourists, we're probably gonna need a couple of gondolas, right? It appears as if the gondola cult is putting in a little public relations overtime.

The gondola-obsessed never rest!

Gondolas, anyone?

Don't all chime in at once.

The Plunder of the Lumpencitizens Will Continue

Senate Committee kills Rep. Neil Hansen's citation quota prohibition bill for the second straight year

It’s a little far-reaching for any legislator to pass legislation that micro-manages how we implement the laws we make.

John Greiner
Utah State Senator
Ogden City Chief of Police

February 15, 2008

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

Frederick Bastiat
The Law

To our considerable disappointment, this morning's Standard-Examiner reports that state representative Neil Hansen's HB-264, which would have prohibited Utah law enforcement agencies from requiring officers to write a set number of citations in a specific time period, was killed in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee yesterday, by a 3-2 vote, with Ogden's own police chief and state senator (who sits on the committee) delivering the fatal coup d'gras.

The plunder of the lumpencitizens will no doubt continue. Local governments will continue to place bounties on the lumpencitizens heads -- for another year, at least.

Against our strongest impulses, we'll resist the temptation to launch another rant on this topic for now. Readers who are unfamiliar with WCF's position on this subject can however bone up on a couple of years worth of collected rants here. For now, we'll just put the topic of traffic citation quotas on the back burner, and revive it again prior to the 2009 legislative session. We have many other fish to fry.

Before closing, we offer a Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat this morning to Rep. Neil Hansen, for his noble effort in attempting to serve his constituents with this bill, while other elected legislators served the interests of the well-oiled right wing socialist state instead. Hopefully there will be better news on this subject around the same time next year.

Comments, anyone?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What are the Standard-Examiner Editors Smoking?

Perhaps Std-Ex subscribers should donate a few more kilos of whatever strange shrub it is

By Curmudgeon

OK, the situation now requires some serious investigation. What have they started putting in the water over at the Standard Examiner? Or, more likely, what have they stopped putting in the water? Because for the second time in less than a week, the Std-Ex has a truly fine editorial up, this time taking to task Sen. Buttars and his ilk who support his bill to make police disciplinary records into secret records unavailable to the public. [I am ashamed to admit that Mayor Becker of Salt Lake City, a Democrat, has endorsed this proposal on grounds that his police chief recommends it, and he is deferring to the chief's expertise on the matter. Wrong. Flat wrong.]

But two excellent editorials within a few days? In the Standard-Examiner? What are they smokin' over there in Mr. Porter's shop these days?

In the early days of the War of Southern Treason, when Lincoln proposed promoting one of his few successful generals, U.S. Grant, there were objections that the General drank more than he should. Mr. Lincoln is reputed to have replied "Find out what he drinks and I'll send a barrel to all my generals." If we can find out what they're smokin' at the Std-Ex Editorial Board these days, I propose we all chip in and send some over at regular intervals. Maybe it will help keep the string going.


Powder Mountain Development Update: Is Legislative Leadership Dragging its Feet?

The clock keeps ticking while remedial legislation reportedly gathers dust on some lawyer's desk

The Powder Mountain town incorporation story is once again on the Standard-Examiner front page this morning, with a well-crafted article by Marshall Thompson, providing updated information on the heroic effort of our Weber County neighbors in Ogden Valley to prevent a fair sized portion portion of the area's unincorporated neighborhood from being gobbled up by Utah's newest developer-controlled company town.

Today's article emphasises the tight timeline now bearing down upon these valiant folks. While the Powder Mountain developer still remains optomistic that town incorporation could be achieved within two weeks' time, the two remedial bills which would thwart the develeloper's backhanded efforts have more or less stalled in the legislature. The Ogden Valley citizen activists grow suspicious:
“I think it’s being held up, and it’s moving slower than it should,” said Richard Sorensen, a Huntsville Town Council member who helped pass a resolution opposing the massive development last year.
And those suspicions are certainly NOT unfounded:
One unforeseen problem was that Senate President John L. Valentine, R-Orem, and Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, both described the proposed amendments as unfair to developers and pledged to delay their passage. [Emphasis ours].
While "freshman" House District 8 state representative Froerer attributes the legislative delays to to the tight scrutiny being given to the text of the two bills by the legislature's legislative attorney staff, we're not quite sure we're ready to swallow that entirely.

Speaker Curtis "declared in January that he has a conflict of interest when it comes to land issues because his law firm represents several developers." So why, we ask, does he seem to be dragging his feet? Why hasn't he handed it off to somebody else in House leadership who doesn't have a conflict? Our BS-O-Meter is jumping off-scale even as we feverishly post his blog entry on our keybord. Somebody needs to build a fire under his and President Valentine's feet.

One possible way to do that, we think, is to sign the petition, folks.

In the event you haven't done that already... you can find it here. As mentioned in today's Std-Ex article, over 300 Utah residents have already jumped aboard (339, to be exact, as of the time of this posting). And for the most up-to-date news on this topic, we remind you to check out Ogden Valley Forum. Lots of good information on this subject there.

On the other hand... if you'd like to see Ogden Valley become the next Park City... ignore this article (and the petition) entirely.

Comments, anyone?

Update 2/14/08 9:55 a.m. MT: Whilst reading through some of the excellent material on Ogden Valley Forum this morning we stumbled upon this wonderful article, reporting on one of the developer's "sales meetings" which are being held to beat down small groups of Ogden Valley residents one by one. The article provides some good analysis and also provides at least a glimpse of the aggressive evil corporate foe that Ogden Valley residents are up against. We're pretty sure the author won't mind our taking this liberty. (The article was "broken at the fold," and difficult to link, so we just unceremoniously copied it to our own storage site.) Read up, gentle readers. You won't believe your own eyes at the audacity of these Powder Mountain development folks.

We'll also note that we've now added a direct graphic link to the Powder Mountain petition in our right sidebar.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pigs... The Lot of 'em

"Screw the workers" bill almost made it out of committee

By Curmudgeon

You want to talk conflict of interest, take a look at this one from Paul Rolly's column in today's SL Trib:

Rep. Mike Morley's attempt to help employers get injured workers kicked off the workers' compensation insurance program got a cool reception from a state advisory committee overseeing workers' compensation issues.

The Spanish Fork Republican [of course --- Curm], who is a construction company owner, brought his HB384 to the Utah Labor Commission's Workers Comp Advisory Committee for a favorable recommendation to the Legislature, but only got a 5-5 vote Monday.

Employer-based groups backing the bill have clashed on the issue with advocates for the working class who oppose it. The bill creates avenues for companies to avoid liability if certain workers get hurt on the job. Morley's construction industry, by the way, is one of the industries most prone to injuries on the job.

His bill would make ineligible for workers' compensation benefits or disability payments an injured employee who was convicted of a crime, like being in the country illegally, for example. (The construction industry hires a lot of undocumented workers, by the way.) The proposal flies in the face of five Supreme Court decisions in other states, the latest being in South Carolina, where the court held such a law would encourage employers to hire undocumented workers since they wouldn't have the burden of insuring them because they wouldn't be eligible for workers' compensation.

Morley's bill also would allow a company to fire ''for cause'' an injured worker getting workers' compensation benefits at the time. That counters a 2006 Utah Supreme Court decision that said La-Z-Boy could not fire a worker while she was getting workers' compensation payments for injuries on the job.
The Gilded Age is alive and well and living in the Utah Legislature. If this passes, a company could hire a construction worker, and if he's injured on the job and gets workman's comp [which his employer has to contribute to], the employer can look back over his record, discover he's been late to work a couple of times, and fire him "for cause" and thus no longer have to pay a dime to cover his injuries.

These people are pigs. Flat out pigs. And this "screw the workers" bill almost made it out of committee. 5-5 vote. Just one more "yea" and it progresses.

Pigs. The lot of 'em.

Utah Justice Court Reform Moves Forward in the Senate

Senator Hillyard's SB-72 clears committee

The Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that Logan Senator Hillyard's Senate Bill 72, aimed at cleaning up the act of local justice courts, has cleared committee, and now is headed to the Senate floor for a vote. It's a short article, so we'll incorporate its text in full:
A bill aimed at giving justice court judges more independence from the cities and counties they serve unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.
SB72 first substitute, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, would:
* Create a nominating commission to review and recommend judge candidates for appointment.
* Increase terms from four to six years beginning in 2010, and set salaries between 50 and 90 percent of those of district court judges.
* Prohibit judges from working in law enforcement, or as prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys or correction or court authorities while on the bench and require them to have four-year degrees.
* Make all judges subject to retention elections.
Although yesterday's committee action is merely an initial first step, we'll chalk it up as an interim win in our two-year campaign to pry Utah justice courts loose from the grasp of some local Utah officials, who have treated justice courts within their political jurisdictions as instruments of citizen plunder, rather than institutions of justice, as originally intended under Utah law.

As our regular readers are aware, this remedial legislation has been a pet project of ours for almost as long as we've been blogging.

Notably, this bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, not exactly a gaggle of pushovers in the law & order department. We believe the unanimous vote demonstrates the committee's recognition that justice court administration, policy and procedure desperately needs to be brought into alignment with the rest of the Utah court system; and we're therefore keeping our fingers crossed that the necessity for change will be equally obvious to lawmakers in both bodies of the Utah legislature.

It goes without saying that we'll be keeping a close eye on this bill, as it winds its way through the legislature.

Comments are invited, as always.

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